Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jesus' Mardi Gras

As you know, I've been posting photos of a DR Carnival Parade, and here I post a few more. "But Fat Tuesday is over!" you exclaim. Not so in every part of the world...

I recently received an e-mail from a friend I met in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. She is an American who took the step I considered, but did not choose. She moved there permanently - bought a house, and has a job teaching math in a high school. She was going to La Vega for the first time.

I was invited to attend by a friend who worked for an ad agency, so I would have had prime access for photography. But I had a previous commitment - a bit odd because the first month or so I was still meeting people and did not have a "full calendar". While I always regret having to say no, I am not one to be fickle and cancel on someone because something "better" came up.

I don't even remember what I did instead - though it seems I could check my calendar to find out, there is one catch. La Vega (in the interior of the island), is "the place to go" for Carnival. Every weekend for a month or more they have huge parades, festival, parties. The costumes are amazing. It is a tourist attraction, not just for foreigners but for Dominicans as well.

Each city in DR has a Carnival, and award winners participate in a final parade in Santo Domingo. Here's what interesting as I check my calendar for 2010. Ash Wednesday was on February 17th, meaning the end of the party - at least in New Orleans and just about anywhere else. But my photos were taken on March 7th, along the Malecon (the name for most coastal roadways in Latin American cities), in Santo Domingo also known as Avenida George Washington. (Go figure.)

Is celebrating Carnival after during Lent blasphemous? Irreverent? Sacrilege? Or if Jesus were alive, would he be right there with them?

I would guess the latter. And here's why:

Matthew 9:14-15 'Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.'

I'm not saying Jesus would approve of the drunkenness or licentiousness that Mardi Gras has turned into in most places around the world. (Mardi Gras = Fat Tuesday = the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, when Lent and fasting begins.) But as far as I can tell the Dominicans don't consider Carnival that way anyway. It's a time for family, festivities, celebration, healthy competition, food, and yes a few cervezas. Actually quite similar to our 4th of July as their Independence Day is February 27th.

Am I saying we should not observe Lent? Of course not - the 'bridegroom' is not currently with us, and Lent is a way to look forward to his return. Something to really celebrate! And with Christ comes Independence at the fullest level - spiritually.

Text and photography copyright Heather J. Kirk

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